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Good Styling



  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    If you think about it, you probably look at the back end of cars more than the front end, or even the side view. In traffic, you cannot be staring in your rear- view mirror to admire the cars behind you. If there is any car in front of you, that is what you will be paying the most attention to for the duration of your drive.

    I have always thought that the back ends of cars tend to be overlooked by stylists. You get great looking distinctive front ends, good 3/4 front views and side views, but the back of many cars tend to look like they were just whatever the designer could do with the side view.

    Ironically, over the last 10 - 20 years, more or less, I think that one company that did exceptionally well designing good looking and functional back-ends was Pontiac. The second series Cavaliers was a good example. The shape of the rear "light-bar" had the extra descending "tab" section that identified it. Also, the spoiler located at the base of the rear window instead of the end of the trunk worked visually very well. I do not know how it worked aerodynamically, but that is another matter.

    Nobody really liked the back end of the Aztek. That was the biggest exception to their record. But the last Vibe looked really good in the back.

    I always liked the look of the Porsche 924 from the back.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I guess it's fun to look at your car in the garage or when passing a plate glass window, but mostly you see the dash and interior when driving around.

    If your mirrors are set up right, you don't even see the side of your car driving around. Maybe you can admire your hood and A pillars.

    The way some cars cramp the cockpit area so that your knees bump the door and console, it makes me think styling took precedence over fit and function. And that's not good.
  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    "[T]he dash and the interior"

    I have been thinking about this, and I am not even sure if I remember the interiors of all the cars I have driven. I can remember some details of the very earliest cars vividly, but a some other details are lost. Some of the cars "came and went" leaving little to remember at all.

    In part, I think I have to disagree with you. If you are driving, you really do not have time to be looking at your interior. If you do that, you are just about in your next accident. Mostly, I expect we sort of drive by braille, and memory, and maybe some guesswork thrown in.

    Having said that, let me get critical about a couple of aspects of interior design and controls. I was going to post these ideas in something else I was writing, but it is not that important to me.

    First, I have been muttering for the last 10 years that the car manufacturers are lagged far behind in integrating technologies into interiors. 10 years ago I was telling people that cell phones should be integrated into the driving controls. We are now getting Bluetooth on the radios.

    What we should have had was a standard mount point in the car to "jack" a phone or other devices into. I would suggest something like a flat tray recessed into the top of the dashboard, maybe 5 inches wide by 5 inches deep with a standard locking mount. It could be covered by a removable piece of material for people who do not want to use it. There would be standard connectors available, and optional standardized wiring setups depending on the devices used and current common technologies.

    I thought the "Heads-Up-Displays" were a good idea. I think LASERs pointed at the windscreen could still be used in this way.

    I will also add that my new car has a lighter gray interior. Sadly, any light colour interiors are a bad idea. Actually, anything that draws attention to your interior in any way is a bad idea. It becomes a magnet for "smash and grab" criminals.

    So what you want is a dull, drab, dark, but comfortable and well laid out interior. Uh, gee. Sounds "wonderful."
  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    First, an explanation of how I got to this posting:

    A while back I was thinking about brands of cars that had gone recently and which cars and styles I would miss. That got me thinking about the Pontiacs, which in turn got me to thinking about back end styling. As I said before, in recent years, Pontiac seemed to do some of the best back ends. I would guess that their stylists simply thought more thoroughly about a total car. Or maybe they were rebelling about having to maintain the front end split grill look. I have no real idea. I never talked to anyone there about it.

    Honda Accord: Anyway, driving recently I was looking at the back end of a new Accord, and thinking about how it had a nice backend style. It occurred to me that really, except for the grill I had grown to like the overall style. I still find the grill in-elegant due to too many (unnecessary) angles. Not only that, but I like it equally in both the 2-dr and 4-dr versions.

    Hyundai Elantra: When I saw the first pictures of this care I was not sure if I would like this style. My first impressions of the actual car were not negative, but it did take a while for me to decide. Since then it has grown on me, and I can say that I actually like it now. The crease in the side does not photograph well, but it is quite nice when you get used to it.

    Acura (overall): Mostly, I like the Acura family styling, except for the big chrome chevron/shield grill pieces. I am still trying to decide if I will ever actually like that.

    Ford Focus and Mazda 3: The first time I saw the new Mazda 3 style, I had a feeling of "oh no, why did they do that?" After this long, I think I can safely say that I am never going to like it. On the other hand, the new Ford Focus is very nice in both the 2-dr and 4-dr versions. I am not really enthusiastic about the chrome grill, but it is not as bad as on the Fusion. I have heard that Ford recently sold shares in Mazda. This pair of styling changes may have had a hand in that.

    Chevrolet Camaro: Some people loved this style when it was first shown, and now some of those people are saying they got tired of it. I was among those who thought it was too "cartoony". At this point I would say, yes, I like it, but no, I would not buy one. But if someone gave one to me, I would not be embarrassed to drive it. To put this in perspective, if someone gave me a Calibre, I would not even drive it. I would sell it, or even give it away.

    Chevrolet Cobalt: I am not going to say much about the sedan. The roof did not really look like it belonged on that car. The Coupe, on the other hand, I have mentioned before as a Chevrolet version of the recently passed versions of Honda Civic Coupe, except for the "Corvette-ish" back end. I think I forgot to say that I liked it. It was not the most wonderful style on the road, but I always did like it. As far as I know, 2010 is the first time they have sold a version of the Coupe without the wing on the trunk. My XFE does not have a wing. I like it that way. It re-proportions the car a bit and cleans up the style. From a practical point, I have never liked wings on street vehicles. The car wash cannot get under the wing. You end up having to finish the job by hand. From a pure styling point, I wish they had changed the front bumper cap, maybe after the first couple of years. The "SS" is nice, but the LS/LT bumper cap is a bit too plain.

    Chevrolet Optra: I can almost hear some of you guys south of the 49th saying "whaaaat?" Yes there was such a car, and it is one of the cars that disappeared recently even from Canada. I never really got to know much about these cars. They were Korean, and they were in the same size and price range as the Cobalt, so they never really had a chance to sell well, even in Canada. But the styling was very nice. It was sort of "a Cobalt done right". Mechanically they might not have been so good. I do not know. But they had a really nice looking 5-dr Hatchback, and a 4-dr + trunk sedan version looked very nice compared to the Cobalt sedan. And they even had a station wagon version beyond the 5-dr.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 22,432
    Thanks for mentioning the Optra. I had never heard of it.


    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,290
    I think the Optra came to us in the States as the Suzuki Forenza...
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,350
    Based on that picture I agree with the assessment of the Optra as a Cobalt done right.
    2013 Mazda 5 Grand Touring, 2010 Toyota Prius IV. 2007 Toyota Camry XLE, 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999 Mazda Miata
  • michaellnomichaellno Posts: 4,300
    I think the Optra came to us in the States as the Suzuki Forenza..

    ...and the 5 door version was the Suzuki Reno.

    All of which are Daewoo based ... in the UK, it was known as the Chevrolet Lacetti ("Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" for TopGear).
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,350
    The Suzukis drive me crazy. They are pretty decent looking vehicles for what they are but I wouldn't be driving one, thanks.
    2013 Mazda 5 Grand Touring, 2010 Toyota Prius IV. 2007 Toyota Camry XLE, 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999 Mazda Miata
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,375
    Well, they're not really Suzukis, anyway. The new Kizashi's getting great reviews, and the long term test is also really positive:
    Inside Line likes the Kizashi
  • berriberri Posts: 8,907
    I agree that you get used to stuff over time. However, I think a lot of current styling is a bit overwrought, maybe influenced by video gaming or something. The exteriors and interiors seem exaggerated. Maybe it goes with the big tire trend right now. Stuff tends to go in trends in the US, so I expect more conservative or classic lines will be around in a few years.
  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    "I agree that you get used to stuff over time."

    Getting back to what I was saying back then, it is not just a matter of getting used to styles, but that styles do not exist in a vacuum. In some cases a car looks just fine in another context. Think of the M-B that Chris Plummer drives in "The Sound of Music". If you have a nice example of one, you can take it to almost any auto show and it will draw a crowd -- yes, I think it would even go down well at a "Tuner club show".

    On the other hand, I mentioned that the new Challenger can look too big if you are sitting at a stoplight surrounded with Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris or Mazda 2. On the other hand, it looks a lot better when surrounded by minivans.

    Context has a lot of sub-issues. For example, some cars look better in real life than in pictures. I was not impressed by the Chevy Cruze when I saw the first pictures, but having seen it in the real world, I think it was quite a nice looking car.
  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Alamogordo, NMPosts: 7,613

    If Sarah Palin would know what kind of car this is if she saw it tooling down the street in Anchorage or...Ketchikan...or Juneau, Alaska...somewhere. What kind of car is this Sarah?

    Do ya know? Huh?

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • xrunner2xrunner2 Posts: 3,062
    I was not impressed by the Chevy Cruze when I saw the first pictures, but having seen it in the real world, I think it was quite a nice looking car.

    Strongly agree. BUT, magazine reviewers don't give good marks to the Cruze engine.

    Too many cars in last few years get awful front-end, grille styling. Reminds one of some bottom feeder fish with big gaping mouths.
  • berriberri Posts: 8,907
    magazine reviewers don't give good marks to the Cruze engine

    I think one of GM's top priorities should be improving its 4 cyl drive trains. Different 4 cyl GM rentals I've had seem to lack a lot from many of their competitors 4cyl vehicles. Ford was lucky to develop and improve their 4 banger with Mazda, but you'd think GM could work with Opel on this? I think this is really a weak spot in an improving GM product portfolio.
  • xrunner2xrunner2 Posts: 3,062
    On Cruze engine.

    GM should just give up and try to get some kind of licensing/manufacturing agreement for their 4 cyl engines. The GM cars using these could have a logo on trunk lid, "Honda Power".

    Honda has been exclusive supplier to Indycar racing series for about the last 5 years. These engines have been bullit-proof.

    On styling, Honda really goofed up their new gen Civic. Last one was tasteful, a little on the edge. New gen is, well, generic.
  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    edited May 2012
    There have been so many changes in the last five years. The biggest changes were that Ford and Hyundai found excellent design staffs, and Mazda -- well something went wrong there. Maybe it was in the water supply. Their latest mistake was the Mazda 5.

    Looking back at message 442 about the new GM 4 cylinder engines (nice number by the way ...), it is a bit late for me to make this comment but I would have suggested that "xrunner2" look over at one of the "GM" topics. The first of the new aluminum 4's that showed up around 2003 in the Cavalier was designed by Lotus. There is nothing wrong with the basic design of the engine. It is just that GM has done a cheap tuning job (cheap parts and assembly, so no VVT, though they did have balancing shafts right from the start) and aimed it towards economy. I have had 2 cars with these 4s, and I can say it seems to be quite reliable. And of course it is so very nice to have an aluminum block in Canada where it helps the heater to come up quickly.

    But enough of that. Back to styling:

    I hope Japan gets over the "simple cube look" disease really soon.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Especially with sedans.

    "Designers have long struggled with fitting passengers comfortably into a car while maintaining the desired exterior shape. The riddle has become increasingly difficult to solve with the growing importance of aerodynamics in boosting a vehicle’s fuel economy. There isn’t much latitude if you are sculpting a car for minimum drag."

    Why Do Cars Look Alike? (Wall St. Journal)
  • fintailfintail Posts: 45,742
    No mentioning of the lack of imagination in design schools. Of course, it is WSJ, might be seen as anti-"capitalism" in some weird way. Small trim details don't have much to do with fuel economy or space efficiency.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Hm, the old '70s Volvo in my family was very comfy to sit in while broken down on the side of the road.

    Luxurious interiors are becoming a top factor in luring car and truck buyers while increasing profit margins for automakers.

    In fact, reliability takes a back seat to interior design among consumers, according to a recent J.D. Power & Associates survey, which found a greater percentage of consumers will buy an unreliable vehicle than one with an interior design they perceive as unattractive.

    Targeting car buyers from the inside (Detroit News)
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 19,679
    edited January 2013
    n fact, reliability takes a back seat to interior design among consumers, according to a recent J.D. Power & Associates survey, which found a greater percentage of consumers will buy an unreliable vehicle than one with an interior design they perceive as unattractive.

    This conclusion seems a bit dubious to me, perhaps it is heavily influenced by exactly how the question was worded and no doubt by the fact that most cars now are fairly reliable and have nice interiors.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I wonder how much is influenced by the available telematics too. People want their gizmos.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    edited January 2013
    most cars now are fairly reliable and have nice interiors.

    Really? I think the interiors of most cars under $25K are crap (and a lot of more expensive vehicles too). Way too much hard plastic, lack of color, and how about putting in some contrasting materials? Not to mention we are now rushing headlong towards the future of touchscreens in every dash, with all the ugliness and irritations that brings. And if it's not that, it's gimmicky stuff like the Mini Cooper and the Sonic, as two examples.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    It is hard to believe that the North American mfr. "crash" happened years ago now. There was a long period when every time I came to this topic I was just so sad about the state of the industry that it took away any incentive to say anything about styling. But lately, the industry is picking up, and [MAGIC!] STYLING is back again!

    It's hard to believe that Hyundai is now near the front of the automotive styling world. Go back 10 years and would you have believed that? Go back to the Hyundai Pony and would you believe that the company is still around at all?

    I think I said before that Ford has taken over the position of "good style" that Mazda had before. I cannot believe that Mazda has continued its direction. The new Mazda 5? Why?

    The new Lexus "pinched" grill is ok. The Acura front wedge thingies on the other hand, why haven't they gotten rid of those yet?

    It is nice to see Chrysler's Dart. The size is interesting. I want to see how it compares to the previous Neons. I think the first Neons were shorter in height, but otherwise about the same.

    About the Neons, I still see "well kept" Neons in Toronto. I think people still like the styling and that the owners are proud of their cars, and that gives them incentive to keep them in good shape. I expect to find that in 10 years, you will be surprised to see a Calibre still running.

    Chevy: The Spark is "not terrible". If you give me one, I would drive it. I would not buy one. The same goes for the Sonic. My opinion of the Cruze has not changed. I like the car. I do not like the name. I am glad I got my Cobalt Coupe.

    Buick: For different reasons, the same comment as the Sonic: If you give me one. . . .

    Nissan Juke: The fender lights kill it. It is hard to believe that the same company put out the G35.
  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    Maybe interiors should be just slightly uncomfortable. If it keeps you just a bit irritated, maybe it will keep you awake at the wheel and more alert?

    It's just a thought. . . . :-)
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    Not buying it, but good try! ;-)

    Since inside is where I spend most of my time, I have come to think that I care a lot more about the quality of the inside than the styling of the outside.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    And that's the minivan owner's secret. :D
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,290
    It is nice to see Chrysler's Dart. The size is interesting. I want to see how it compares to the previous Neons. I think the first Neons were shorter in height, but otherwise about the same.

    I've sat in a few Darts, but have yet to drive one. To me, it feels like they took the front of a midsized car, the back of a compact, and joined them at the B-pillar. I found it plenty roomy and comfortable up front, but the back seat was what I'd call "typical compact"...too small for me to be comfortable, but about par for this size of vehicle.

    I think the midsize/compact thing carries over to the styling, as well. If you take a picture of one from the side, and put your thumb over the back of it, it looks like it would be a fairly good-sized car. But, if you put your thumb over the front of the picture, it just looks like a generic, stubby compact.

    I've seen a few on the road, as well, and when one comes up behind you, it seems to have a lot of presence about it.

    As for the old Neon, I liked them. They were one of the few small cars where I could fit comfortably, both in the front and back. I've heard that reliability wasn't too bad on the later models, either. Unfortunately, resale value is so low that it doesn't take much to total one. I have a friend who had one, and it took a fairly minor side swipe while parked, and that was enough to total it. But then, he bought a Hyundai Sonata, an early 2000's model, and one morning rear-ended a truck with a trailer hitch on it, and even though the damage looked light, it got totaled, as well. He's driving an early '00's Mopar minivan now, but I can't remember which model. I think it's a Caravan, but it might just be a Voyager.
  • writerwriter Posts: 121
    So much has happened since January!

    I have been seeing new Toyotas lately, but I have not really seen them closely, so I will wait a while before saying what I think about them.

    The Chev Sonic is interesting. There are individual points I do not like, but if I see one on the street, it isn't bad. Overall it looks like a shrunken AMC Gremlin which I never liked, but I guess, because it is just plain smaller it does not look bad to me. Sort of like the Mazda 3 looking silly, but the Mazda 2, with similar styling cues looks ok. Just ok though. I would still buy the Ford versions. Ironically, I think the Sonic would have had potential for the old "customizers" back in the 1970's. Styling-wise things that I do not like can be isolated and replaced.

    But these days, I would not want to touch a car. The designs are so critical that if you fix a crease you might end up causing body flexing which in turn messes up handling and structural strength. Ick. You can't sneeze at a car these days!
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,726
    You know what looks really weird to me? The Chevy Spark. Now that GM is flooding rental lots with them, I am seeing them on the roads fairly frequently (all with the little barcode in the window of course!).

    That model looks like it was squeezed from both ends, then squeezed from both sides. MUCH too tall for its width and length. And that impression is accentuated by the really tall smeary headlights.

    The new Corolla looks much better than the old one, especially in certain colors and with the black rims of the 'S' trim. Of course under the hood is the same old engine they have been using for about 15 years, the numbest electric steering in the world, and egads! a CVT, so looks will have to carry the day if Toyota hopes to outsell Honda and Ford.

    As for the new Mazda3, the front sort of gapes, but it is quite a bit better than the old smiley model I think.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

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